Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A Letter to the Future

As I've mentioned, we are restoring our Georgian house. It's hard work at times and yet other times the work is made light when we manage to connect with the former residents. It's been a fascinating journey exploring the lives of those who've dwelt here before us. They've become old friends in a sense. It got us wondering what the future house owners would find when they renovated and would our presence be felt.

That's when the little light bulb went on and a brilliant idea came about. Why leave our existence at the house a mystery when we could leave our own account of our time here? I decided right then and there we'd write a letter to the future and so the wheels began turning.

There were a lot of things to consider before we undertook this project. First, what should we write with and what should we write on? Finding the right medium to write on was not as simple as I thought it would be. It would have to be paper that wouldn't turn to dust; it had to be something that would endure the test of time. I found a thick, acid-free parchment kind of paper that seemed to fit that bill then I turned my attentions to what pen I would use. Ballpoint pen was out of the question since it fades after about ten years, as you've probably discovered when sorting through old photos. An archival pen would be perfect, the only trouble was no one knew what I was talking about when I asked for one. Finally, after a few weeks of fruitless searching, I made an executive decision and got out my dipping pen and the India ink. I'm not all that proficient with pen and ink writing but I persevered and soon got into the groove.

I wrote a letter introducing myself and talking about how we came to live at the house and what our intentions were. As a seasoned letter writer, I actually had to be careful not to write too much! We had chosen a Champagne bottle for its sturdiness to enclose our missive in and too many of those thick pages wouldn't fit down the neck of the bottle. So, I gave a brief history of us and added some photos to round out the letter.

We also wanted to include some things from “our moment in time” and that is when the fun began. What to include? Hmmm. Well, we started out slow and then found too many things and had to really think about what we were choosing, again, because of the vessel things were going to be sealed into. We chose bottles to house our time capsule because of all the things we have found, the bottles have been best preserved.

We ended up having two bottles one with all the papers and photos, which not only had our letter and photos of the house and of us but also came to include news items of the day, recent big events like the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympics as well as our parish newsletter and a few other pertinent things. It doesn't sound like a lot but we had to roll everything very tightly in order to get it down into the bottle. We'd chosen these things very carefully and didn't want to omit any of them so there was a collective sigh of relief when we managed to fit it all into the Champagne bottle.

The second vessel, a Pimms bottle, held other aspects of our life. We were going to put a few coins in and some of the snippets of wallpaper from the house we'd saved, shards of pottery, glass and clay pipe we'd found but decided to include some other things. Quite a conversation ensued about things that may not be around when our letter was read. Some postage stamps were decided upon and from then, things started occurring to us that we couldn't omit. A pencil, traditional recipes, a paper clip, a safety pin and then we thought about it and added a bit of lego, some candy wrappers, though I'm not sure they will stand the test of time, a few playing cards, a couple of receipts, some business cards and because my husband is an electronics engineer, some electrical bits like circuits. Who knows where technology will get to in the future?

Those things fit into the bottle a little easier than the paper items, thankfully. Our next feat would be to close it up to keep things safe. We found corks for both bottles and then dipped them in wax to seal them and hopefully keep the cork from perishing. In addition to the two bottles, we added a few pieces of crystal and china that had been chipped during our house move. We find so many small pieces of china and pottery and keep hoping to find a whole plate or cup so the addition of these things seemed right in keeping with what we were trying to achieve. One of the bottles we found was also included for posterity.

It was quite exciting really, to be writing to the future. When it came time to bury our treasure we were a bit thoughtful and paused for a moment, then carefully arranged everything in the small space we made in the floor. We had left one small part of the floor unfilled and made a stone lined “Box” to put our things in and then we put a stone on top and covered it over as if it had never been there. Next the cement will go on top and we can only wonder how long it will be before someone comes along and finds our stash. I can't help but think about who will find it and hope they can appreciate our efforts. I would have loved to have found something like this, a picture of the lives of the tenants of the house before us, but the next best thing is to create something unique like this for someone else to discover.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Hot off the Press!

The Royal Mail released these lovelies today. I really like these stamps and also that they come in a variety of denominations so I can use them on domestic letters as well as international ones without adding a bunch of boring Machins to get up to the overseas postage rates. There's just something about the seaside; sunshine, warm breezes and carefree days. These beach beauties are so vivid and they look even better in person. I can't wait to use them on my letters. Usually there is only one stamp release per month in the United Kingdom but the stamps they offer are always worth waiting for. I ordered some of these Seaside stamps and the British Piers souvenir sheets they issued from the Royal Mail website. My stamps arrived in the morning post so I'm all set. By ordering on line I get as many as I want and don't have to stand in line (or get waited on by the mean lady!) Generally when I go into town, the post office has few or none left of any new stamps and I may not get the complete series, so ordering on line ensures I get the whole set, plus extras. This release came just in time to help summer linger on a little more before the chilly Autumn days come to stay.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


I love the idea of smash books. I have always done my scrapbooks in that style so the concept of having an everyday smash book really appeals to me. There are usually several collages in progress on my work table, whether I'm putting them together or collecting just the right elements for them, so I've got tons of ephemera. Too much probably but I dare not throw away any scrap because I just know I will be in dire need of it for some project or other.

Today, I wanted to share my postal smash book with you. I've always collected postal cartoons but until I began my book I never really had one place to keep them. They were always just stashed in with boxes or packages of stationery or tucked into the backs of tablets. Now my cartoons and all the other little postal tidbits I amass are all in one place. I found this journal in a bargain bin at one of the shops in town. It's perfect for my mail ephemera.

This page has a little blurb about Paloma Faith, one of my favourite singers. She says in the interview she has just gotten into letter writing and shows some of her letter writing sets. I thought that was really cool that she took the time to write letters having such a hectic life and I wrote and told her so. I was very surprised to get an autographed photo in the mail as a thank you for my letter.

I also write quotes about letters and writing in between my scraps. I collect those too. I'm a bit of a paper pack rat. Ah, but it's fun and even if it's addicting it isn't fattening and besides there are worse habits so I'm not worried.

I don't do one page at a time, the scraps go in randomly and I keep adding until a page is full.  There are so many things to include and so I just go with the flow and add the elements as they fit into the available spaces.  It's a very random process.

I'd like to add colour to my book but I don't paint and don't have a clue about where to start. I don't think the pages of this particular book would stand being painted as they are thin and just meant to be written on but later on I'd like dabble a little with paint and just take it up another level.

In any case, I like how the book is coming along and never thought I would have enough bits and pieces to actually fill a whole book, but I'm actually nearly ready to move onto the next book! I've got my eye on a book for volume 2 already...and a bigger book at that because some of the goodies I have are just a bit too large to add to the current book.

What's in your smash book?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


This past month has been slow in the incoming mail department which is pretty sad for someone who loves getting mail. Still, it's always a great mail day when there is something other than bills and ads in the post for me. Yesterday I got this lovely stack of mail.
Swop-bot keeps me busy with little projects from time to time. As I mentioned in my last post I made a stationery kit for my partner. I received the kit my partner made for me this week and I love it! It was very thoughtfully put together and I have already begun using the contents. My favourite thing in the kit was the personalized swap cards she made for me.

Swaps also feed my stamp collection. I've been collecting stamps since I was about 7. My father is a big collector and that is how I got started. I also inherited my late mother-in-law's collection which consisted of about 7 cartons. It took quite a long time to sort. Mostly it was used stamps she had amassed. It seemed like everyone she ever met was saving stamps for her so the process of sorting things by country and then soaking them off the paper and putting them in albums took a very long time. I've still got things to go through, but the bulk of the collection is now organized. Midway through my sorting, my son took an interest in collection and that makes me happy. He'll take on the collection next.

I got this fabulous swap from Stacy in the United States. I think her mail art is great, especially since she incorporated some of my hobbies and favourite colours in her work. I keep the envelope on my desk for inspiration. I'm still a relative newby to mail art. My envelopes are not as developed as Stacy's but I'm working on it.
Collage is my number one mail art form as you can see here from this Alice in Wonderland themed postcard I did a while ago.
Back of postcard

front of postcard

Today while I was writing this I got three more stamp swaps and my partners added so many nice extras I thought I would show you those as well.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Finding Miss Write

What makes a good pen pal? I think every one of us, at some time or another, searches for that perfect pal. One whose letters we anticipate, and with whom we find an easy rapport.

Writing to new people is quite easy really; it’s what comes after that initial letter that can pose a problem. I remember my very first pen pal. My neighbour’s cousin had come to visit over the summer holidays and when she left we’d agreed to write to one another—we were seven years old. I thought it would be so easy to write to Rhonda, but we already knew each other so the benefit of the opening letter wasn’t necessary in this case. When I sat down to write her, I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. My mother, who’d had pen pals when she was younger, encouraged me to write about our daily life so I dutifully wrote about my father having to replace one of the wind shield wipers on our car. It was a short-lived correspondence with Rhonda to say the least.

A few years later, when I was a little older and hopefully a little wiser, I sent my name in to a TV program called The Big Blue Marble in order to be matched up with an overseas pen pal. I was eleven and wanted to know first-hand about far away places. I soon got a letter from Claudia in Italy. It was very exciting for me and things did progress past the first letter this time only to stall around the third letter when Claudia informed me she couldn’t understand my handwriting. To say I was mortified was a gross understatement. For me, the subject of my handwriting had always been a sensitive one. When I was nearly eight, we moved from the city to the country and upon entering school, I found that cursive writing was taught in the previous year and so I would need to learn at home in order to be brought up to the same level as my classmates. I was sent home with a note and a packet with templates and under my mother’s tutelage I practised writing cursive. I was not very good at it and having won penmanship awards for my printing at my former school, it was quite a blow really, so when Claudia said she couldn’t understand my writing I was devastated. I wanted to have a pen pal though, so I began practising my writing again and after that our correspondence flourished.

As the years went on, Claudia and I grew apart and as our interests developed and changed I heard from her less and less until she stopped writing altogether. Again, I found myself looking for a pen pal. But how do you find the right one? I sent my name in to a magazine requesting letter friends. I remember the day the letters started to arrive. I was thrilled and began happily answering my new pen pals. The letters continued to arrive, however, and then I started to worry. I wondered if they would ever stop. I got replies from as far away as Hong Kong and Brazil. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would receive more than 200 replies to my ad. It was a very arduous task answering so many pals. Some of my friends expressed an interest in writing so I passed some of the letters on to them though I wrote to the majority of people answering my ad. It proved to be too much in the end and most stopped writing to me because I took so long to write back. I was spending all my pocket money on stamps and stationery and still I didn’t have enough. I found that I was basically writing the same letter to all of my pals anyway and that isn’t really what I thought having pen pals would be like.

I realized then, that in order to have a good pen pal, I had to first be one. I became more conscious of the few remaining pals I had and endeavoured to be a pal whose letters they anticipated, and the rapport followed. It was a nice realization, finding that every pal was unique and that I connected on a different level with each of them. That in turn added depth to the whole experience of writing, and that is what I had always believed writing should be like.

 Today, I still write the few pals that endured. They were patient with me as I found my pen pal voice and slowly metamorphosed into Miss Write.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Getting Back to Business
Hello everyone. Now that the frenzy of getting my son ready for school is finished, hopefully I can get into a better posting schedule. The past few weeks have been bedlam here with getting uniforms, Phys Ed kit and classroom essentials ready for the big day. My son started at a new school this week so everything had to be changed over to the new school's name and logo which amounted to highway robbery. But, everything is purchased, labelled with name and form and ready for action so things here have slowed down. The house is so still and quiet, and I miss my son.

I've been writing letters and trying to get back to enjoying writing rather than stressing about being late in replying now that back to school mania has ended. I mailed a bunch of things when I went into town the other day. I used most of the envelopes I made a while ago so I'll have to get creative again. I sent out some swaps from Swap-Bot too. My son and I collect postage stamps so I've been swapping our extras. That gives us something to do on those rainy afternoons which have become more frequent now that Autumn is slowly creeping in. I can't complain though, as we have had such a nice summer with a lot of sunny carefree days.
Though I'm mostly doing stamp swaps on Swap-bot, I've tried a few other things as well. I made a Harry Potter postcard which I showed a few posts ago (and don't know how to link that up here yet!  :)  I've also just finished making a writing kit. I used one of the stationery folders I got at the charity shop and embellished and added a lot of writing goodies. 
  I made a small accordion address book from some address cards I had using washi tape to connect them and put a cover on it that I decorated with the same design as the writing folder.  It folds flat for easy storage.  The pretty little flowery bag has some scraps and stickers for embellishing letters and looks nice against the black writing paper.  Hopefully my swapping partner will like it as I tried to incorporate her favourite colours and themes.   I like the way it turned out and was inspired to transform an old stationery folder I had. The stationery got used and I had almost thrown the folder away but then I had a brainsotrm to upcycle it.  The second writing kit is very different and I think this one came out nicely too.

It has an entirely different feel to it.  I covered the folder with a wallpaper sample I got from one of the shops in town.  I found some matching cord in my fabric/ribbon stash and that complimented it nicely.  It was a little tricky gluing it on, and I had to do it in stages so that it fit properly.  I ended up not gluing to the spine of the folder so that when it was opened and closed it would give a little and that seems to have worked very well.  I poked holes in the folds and sewed a long bead onto the ribbons I inserted on each side so the folder could be tied shut.
Here is the inside view showing the goodies I included.  I had all these things on hand and only really bought the pen as it matched so well.  You can't see, but there is a gem on top of the pen that matches all the little gem accents I added.   I like that I have a portable kit I can take with me when I go somewhere and can write letters, notes and postcards.  The only thing I have yet to add are a few stamps and them I'm all set to go.  Have you ever made a writing kit?  It's fairly easy and can be used and refilled so you are always ready to write.  Give it a try some time.